Our newsletter format is still in a metamorphosis stage!
This month’s issue provides a simplified overview of climate change and how it affects all of us. It is important to first understand what changes are occurring and why, and what we can do to bring a balance back to our environment.
Impacts of a Changing Climate
Our planet is heating up, often referred to as “global warming”. An increase in temperature changes the great patterns of wind that bring the monsoons in Asia and rain and snow around the world, making drought and unpredictable weather more common. Because our global climate is a connected system climate change impacts are felt everywhere.
Among the most important climate change impacts we are facing from global warming:
Projections suggest climate change impacts within the next 100 years, if not sooner, the world’s glaciers will have disappeared, as will the Polar ice cap, and the huge Antarctic ice shelf, Greenland may be green again, and snow will have become a rare phenomenon at what are now the world’s most popular ski resorts.
Rising Sea Levels
Our oceans are heating up, which causes expansion. Add to that the additional water from the melting ice and you can see where the problem is leading!
Climate change impacts rising sea levels. Average sea level around the world rose about 8 inches (20 cm) in the past 100 years; climate scientists expect it to rise more and more rapidly in the next 100 years as part of climate change impacts.
Coastal cities such as New York are already seeing an increased number of flooding events and by 2050 many such cities may require seawalls to survive. Estimates vary, but conservatively sea levels are expected to rise 1 to 4 feet (30 to 100 cm), enough to flood many small Pacific island states (Vanatu), famous beach resorts (Hilton Head) and coastal cities (Bangkok, Boston).
If the Greenland ice cap and/or the Antarctic ice shelf collapses, sea levels could rise by as much as 20 ft (6 m), inundating, for example, large parts of Florida, the Gulf Coast, New Orleans and Houston.
Torrential Downpours and More Powerful Storms
While the specific conditions that produce rainfall will not change, climate change impacts the amount of water in the atmosphere and will increase producing violent downpours instead of steady showers when it does rain.
Hurricanes and typhoons will increase in power, and flooding will become more common.
Heatwaves and Drought
Despite downpours in some places, droughts and prolonged heatwaves will become common.
Rising temperatures are hardly surprising, although they do not mean that some parts of the world will not “enjoy” record cold temperatures and terrible winter storms. (Heating disturbs the entire global weather system and can shift cold upper air currents as well as hot dry ones. Single snowballs and snowstorms do not make climate change refutations.)
Increasingly, however, hot, dry places will get hotter and drier, and places that were once temperate and had regular rainfall will become much hotter and much drier.
The string of record high temperature years and the record number of global droughts of the past decade will become the norm, not the surprise that they have seemed.
Reduced Food Security
One of the most striking impacts of rising temperatures is felt in global agriculture, although these impacts are felt very differently in the largely temperate developed world and in the more tropical developing world.
Different crops grow best at quite specific temperatures and when those temperatures change, their productivity changes significantly.
In North America, for example, rising temperatures may reduce corn and wheat productivity in the US mid-west, but expand production and productivity north of the border in Canada.
The productivity of rice, the staple food of more than one third of the world’s population, declines 10% with every 1⁰ C increase in temperature.
Past climate induced problems have been offset by major advances in rice technology and ever larger applications of fertilizer; expectations are that in Thailand, the world’s largest exporter of rice, however, future increases in temperatures may reduce production 25% by 2050.
At the same time, global population models suggest that developing world will add 3 billion people by 2050 and that developing world food producers must double staple food crop production by then simply to maintain current levels of food consumption.
One of the most significant impacts of climate change on plants and animals is that it destroys habitats. As the earth’s temperature continues to rise, animals and plants that live and grow in colder climates, for example, are struggling to survive and might not find a suitable habitat. This is a global problem.
Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities, says the most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems.
As the world warms, entire ecosystems are disrupted.
In once colder waters, this may increase fishermen’s catches; in warmer waters, it may eliminate fishing; in many places, such as on the East Coast of the US, it will require fishermen to go further to reach fishing grounds.
Already rising temperatures at the equator have pushed such staple crops as rice north into once cooler areas, many fish species have migrated long distances to stay in waters that are the proper temperature for them.
Farmers in temperate zones are finding drier conditions difficult for crops such as corn and wheat, and once prime growing zones are now threatened.
Some areas may see complete ecological change.
In California and on the East Coast, for example, climate change impacts and warming will soon fundamentally change the forests; in Europe, hundreds of plants species will disappear and hundreds more will move thousands of miles.
Pests and Diseases
Unfortunately pests and diseases are not adversely impacted by warming temperatures.
In fact, rising temperatures favor agricultural pests, diseases and disease vectors.
Pest populations are on the rise and illnesses once found only in limited, tropical areas are now becoming endemic in much wider zones.
In Southeast Asia, for example, where malaria had been reduced to a wet season only disease in most areas, it is again endemic almost everywhere year around.
Likewise, dengue fever, once largely confined to tropical areas, has become endemic to the entire region.
Increased temperatures also increase the reproduction rates of microbes and insects, speeding up the rate at which they develop resistance to control measures and drugs (a problem already observed with malaria in Southeast Asia).
What is causing the earth to heat up?
The earth’s atmosphere has always acted like a greenhouse to capture the sun’s heat, ensuring that the earth has enjoyed temperatures that permitted the emergence of life forms as we know them, including humans.
Without our atmospheric greenhouse the earth would be very cold. Global warming, however, is the equivalent of a greenhouse with high efficiency reflective glass installed the wrong way around.
Specifically, gases released primarily by the burning of fossil fuels and the tiny particles produced by incomplete burning trap the sun’s energy in the atmosphere. Scientists call these gases “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) because they act like the wrong way reflective glass in our global greenhouse.
Scientists attribute the current warming trend to the use of fossil fuels because using them releases into the atmosphere stores of carbon that were sequestered (buried) millions of years ago.
The most common and most talked about greenhouse gases is CO2 or carbon dioxide. In fact, because it is so common, scientists use it as the benchmark or measure of things that warm the atmosphere.
Deforestation is another major contributor to our increase of CO2. Greatly accelerated by human activities since 1960, deforestation has been negatively affecting natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and the climate. Forest areas across the world that have been lost for other uses such as agricultural croplands, urbanization, or mining activities.
(Information source: Climate Change Primer )
What can we do?
Our primary focus needs to be on reducing new release of CO2, but also removing accumulated CO2 from the atmosphere.
We need to minimize our use of fossil fuels, and focus on developing alternative sources of energy that are clean and sustainable. The natural power sources are there, the sun, wind, and water.
Replanting our forests is a part of the solution, but there is more we can do.
There are many roads to be traveled to find solutions.
At Warm Heart, we focus on both carbon emissions reduction and carbon removal with our biochar program We reach out to smallholder farmers across the globe and show them a better way to handle their crop waste.
We teach them how to use their crop waste to make biochar. This process eliminates tons of greenhouse gases currently being released from open field burning.
Biochar is pure carbon, when the pure carbon is put back in the soil, it creates a “carbon sink”, and sequesters it for hundreds of years, helping to bring down our CO2 levels.
The main focus of our newsletter is to increase awareness of this particular path towards reducing global warming, to give our earth a chance to heal and rebalance our CO2 levels.
Check out our Special Edition: COP26 UN Climate Summit
Donate to help Warm Heart’s “Stop the Smoke” biochar project.
Warm Heart Worldwide is a registered 501.c.3 non-profit organization in the United States, our tax exemption number is 26-2059241. All donations are tax-deductible for U.S. Taxpayers.